Archive for the ‘MIscellaneous’ Category

The road to Mists of Pandaria – A man behind a face

Two days ago I started blogging again, and I chose to look at the MoP trailer and explain why I was impressed with it. While watching the video, I noticed something odd towards the end:

See the small Pandaren face on Chen’s barrel?

Why would there be a Pandaren face on something that belongs to Pandaren celebrity Chen Stormstout? It would be like, I don’t know, Worf from Next Generation having a drawing of Klingon-like features on his fanny pack (not that I see a Klingon ever wearing a fanny pack). Actually there is a very simple explanation, but as with any good story we’ll have to go back a bit and take a short memory trip.

Many of you who are fans of the Warcraft franchise will be familiar with the name of Sam “Samwise” Didier. The big guy is the art director at Blizzard Entertainment and has been since the Silicon and Synapse days (i.e. early nineties). He’s the man behind most of the concept artwork for all of the major Blizzard series – Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft. He’s a huge metalhead – among his works are many covers for HammerFall‘s albums, and he’s the vocalist of Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain. Oh and did I mention that he runs a website called “Sons of the Storm“?

 
Dude is a total badass in my book. Or at least a Geek with a capital G, in a good way. If you want to know more about him, the folks at Blizzard and their geeky shenaningans, you can watch the documentary they released last year for the company’s 20th anniversary (where Sam proudly wears his HammerFall T-shirt).

 
Anyhow, let’s get to the relevant part. At some point between Warcraft II and Warcraft III, Samwise was the father of a little girl. For Christmas, as a small gift to his family he drew a picture of a big panda with a small cub on his shoulder. Sam drawing himself as a panda wasn’t a random whim – Panda was his nickname, as he has the looks of a big bear yet none of its ferocity (this story courtesy of WoW Insider – funny how that article was published in 2010). Somehow that picture made its way out of Sam’s home; people took notice of the art and started talking of a new “Panda” race.

Sam dismissed the thought at first. However, an April’s Fools was made portraying Pandaren as playable units in the upcoming Warcraft III. It was quickly revealed as a joke, but it draw quite a reaction. From there, Samwise started drawing little Easter eggs in his art: tiny pictures of a panda face. In the meanwhile, Metzen started working on Pandaren lore, and they were officially featured for the first time in Warcraft III.

After that… we already know the story. Pandaren and their homeland Pandaria will be the namesake of World of Warcraft’s third expansion. Will Samwise stop putting random panda faces in his artwork? I am not sure, but it certainly seems proper to do it in the closing scene of this trailer, as a small doodle from over a decade ago managed to spark the life of a whole new world.

Next on The Lazy Tree: Indecisive 25man EU guild LFM (maybe) before september 25! Stay tuned!

Interlude – Don’t drink and respec!

Something that makes my raiding life smooth and peachy is being able to keep two resto specs. I do not care for dailies (I think I’ve said this before) and so far the officers of IC have never asked me to go boomkin. I know that this is a sore point for many fellow trees, especially those in progress-oriented guilds. I am not gloating, just putting things in perspective – you can wait until I get to the point of this post, THEN you will really want to throw large painful objects at me.

Anyhow, having two specs dedicated to the same healing tree also means I am free to experiment with wacky builds to my heart’s content. A few days ago I was staring unhappily at my talents – my intent usually is to have a “safe” build focusing on mana regen for farm bosses, and a maxed output build for bosses where I have to go crazy with my heals; none of my specs seemed to do the job they were designed for, also I had Nature’s Cure only in my output build, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I tinkered a bit with talents before the start of the raid and happily settled on this for one of my specs (the other one was very similar, only with less output and 3/3 Moonglow):

Linky link

The experienced eye will probably spot the obvious, glaring mistake at a glance…. but I didn’t. Yes, I totally forgot to take 2/2 Malfurion’s Gift. Yeah, I’m THAT bad. I prefer the term “light-headed”, but I can understand if you were thinking something along the line of “s#@t for brains”. Of course I made the same mistake with the other spec.

So, blissfully proud of my ingenuity, I made my way to Dragon Soul where we managed to down Ultraxion (we had cleared up to 4/8 the raid night before). My personal tactics for that boss are as follows, briefly told: pre-pot with Volcanic Potion, pop Tree of Life and Nature’s Grace at the start for massive Wrath spam while we don’t have to click any large button in the middle of the screen. We run with three healers so I feel like I have to contribute to le pew-pew, and it actually makes a difference; the other two healers can easily deal with the low damage for the first 30 seconds of the fight. Then AOE heal the rest of the fight and save the next Tree of Life and a lone Tranquility for the end of the fight where we have to deal with heavy raid-wide damage.

How is my Ultraxion course of action relevant? Well, popping Tranquility only once in the fight means I didn’t notice the eight-minutes cooldown, and while in tree form I was mostly saving my GCDs for Rejuvenation and Wild Growth rather than Lifebloom. My feeble mind probably noticed how few OOC procs I seemed to get (actually none obviously) but failed to connect the hots, wait I mean dots.

Even without the free Regrowths, I didn’t have mana issues due to how easily you can control damage – even if it’s heavy towards the end – and thanks to the amazing Efflorescence.

After Ultraxion we had a few wipes on Blackhorn but I was too busy jumping around, dealing with seemingly random damage, to notice anything. Reality finally smacked me on the head the next raid night in the form of a depleted mana bar and zero OOC procs, at which point I had no choice but notice the “zero” under the familiar flower-like icon. I managed to make it to the end of the Blackhorn encounter anyway and then moved on to unsuccessfully fight tentacles on Deathwing’s back.

Is there something to be learned here? Unlikely. If anything, it’s a reminder of how much mana is saved by spamming Lifebloom and free Regrowths under a timely Tree of Life. Playful self-deprecating aside, I thought I might as well make a bit of fun out of a blatant fail – and show how you can make a blog post out of pretty much anything!

Chapter VII – Tora! Tora! Tora!

Blizzcon 2011, Anaheim. Blizzard Entertainment shocks fans worldwide by revealing Mists of Pandaria as the next World of Warcraft expansion.

Although it had been revealed that a MoP trademark was registered earlier this year, the thought of an expansion focused on the forgotten continent of Pandaria, and its inhabitants the anthropomorphic pandas Pandaren, was met with a very strong reaction from WoW players.

“Complete surprise is achieved

The introduction of this post would have been so much better had Blizzard based MoP on the Japanese culture and imagery instead of the Chinese one. There seem to be a lot of sakura trees on Pandaria though, that’s for sure.

Anyhow, I like what I have seen so far of the new expansion. The scenery is certainly impressive, and the change in dungeons and raid environment will be most welcome from me. I started raiding in Icecrown Citadel, which of course had a captivating backstory, yet a very bleak look; then I moved on to Cataclysm, where raids and dungeons so far have been mostly huge rocky caves. At the beginning of the expansion I couldn’t even tell BRC, Grim Batol and the Stonecore apart because it was all a massive blur of maroon/purple/dark brown in my mind; as well as Blackwing Descent is designed, it doesn’t even compare to the stunning Throne of the Four Winds, which is a lone gem in a sea of dullness.

I am not sure about the Pandaren yet, but I have enough faith in Blizz left to believe that they’ll make a decent enough job to give them an adequate background. The new Monk class sounds interesting enough and, being the manga geek… I mean connoisseur that I am,  I have already “reserved” a number of variations on the Genma Saotome name for my future Pandaren Monk.

The new features like Scenari and Challenge Mode were met with a blank stare from me (I pretty much stopped reading at “The rewards for delivering top Challenge Mode times will be mostly cosmetic in nature” and skipped to the next section). I am kinda surprised at how the Pet Battle System is a total Pokemon clone, though. I guess the people at Nintendo are cool with that.

The talents overhaul seems like a move into the right direction. I don’t agree 100% with the notion that we were left with cookie-cutter talent builds, but as a druid I like how the new talents are mostly focused on utility; being relatively new to the druid class, I am still learning how/when to use bear/cat abilities while healing and it’s something I definitely enjoy.

Speaking of druids, I was happy to see Blizzard acknowledege the Resto AOE healing issue in one of their Q&A sessions. Apparently we’re getting new tools, such as healing mushrooms, and according to the MoP talent list we will be able to choose Force of Nature as a healing cooldown (I’m guessing it will be something similar to the current Paladin ability Guardian of Ancient Kings). This sounds exciting but it does nothing about the issues we might face in patch 4.3, although they might have something different in store for us.

Finally, the lack of a major villain has been met with very different stances. In my opinion, it is definitely a plus at this point. Back in WotLK there was a lot of doom and gloom but it felt justified; the Lich King threatened to swarm Azeroth with his legions of undead and we were constantly reminded of it. Almost every bit of questing and raiding was aimed towards the final do-or-die confrontation with Arthas. There was a strong sense of urgency throughout all of Northrend.

On paper, the same could be said for Cataclysm, with the Twilight cultists threat and Deathwing burning and destroying left and right. In practice, it fell flat on his head. People are stuck afk’ing in SW/Org except when *Cata’s main villain* is sighted, at which point players will run to get burninated and win the coveted achievement. The Twilight cult feels more like a joke. Having portals take you from Stormwind to pretty much everywhere doesn’t help. It doesn’t matter that we have the whole 1-60 experience reshaped by the destruction Deathwing brought – it just feels wrong.

So far, so good. However, something that happened at Blizzcon left a sour taste in my mouth.

So much fail

A lot has been already said and written about the Corpsegrinder fiasco. I am not here to discuss morality and sexual orientation, and I have actually rewritten this part of my post after some consideration. I am not going to put the blame on George Fisher; while I certainly do not approve of people randomly throwing around homophobic slurs, it was Blizzard’s choice to invite him and show that interview. What really ticks me off is the choice to introduce mr. Corpsegrinder as a WoW fan – someone we should, somehow, actually look up to.

Sadly, in that video he comes off as a total homophobic, unintelligent brute who likes to run his mouth and blabber about how Alliance is made of queers. I can’t understand how anyone in their right mind would cheer for that. Basically, the message coming across is that Blizzard caters to male high-schoolers with an IQ lower than a monkey’s – with all due respect to monkeys and intelligent high-schoolers.

Korenwolf of Paw Prints at the Portal already explained what’s wrong with the whole affair, probably better than I ever could. That was an astonishingly bad, mind-boggling PR move from Blizzard and they are very lucky that the story didn’t make it to national news outlets. I never wish unemployment upon anyone but whoever thought it was a good idea to air that interview – even in censored form, which only makes things worse – should be fired on the spot… except that this brilliant idea probably came from the higher-ups at Blizz.

World of Warcraft has literally millions of subscribers, from the most diverse countries and backgrounds. There are old people, housewives, kids who play WoW. With Mists of Pandaria the general consensus, which is probably spot on, seems to be that Blizzard is looking to a younger audience to expand the player base, or least looking to new kinds of gamers. There is nothing wrong with that. I like WoW and I’m happy that as many different people can enjoy it as well, as long as it doesn’t turn into Hello Kitty Online (which I might enjoy anyway). Yet the message coming from their biggest showcase of the year goes in the completely opposite direction, giving new strenght to years-old stereotypes. If that’s not a dumb move on Blizzard’s part, I really don’t know what that is.

Chapter III – PotPourri

Another couple of weeks have passed and WoW news sites have been kept pretty busy. Patch 4.3 seems to loom closer, despite not being on the PTR yet, and bits and pieces and fat chunks about its content and the changes it will bring have started to surface on Blizzard’s very own website.

Just to get this out of the way: I know there were nerfs to tier12 content. Although they do irk me somehow, discussing them irks me even more as I actually rewrote this post a couple of time before deciding I had already wasted enough time on things that marginally affect me or my guild.

Same old song and dance?

The first bit of news about 4.3 is actually almost a month old, as fashionable WoW players have had the time to appreciate the new transmogrify feature and start looking at every possible set (and if you were still wondering, Blizz just made a list of official notes about how transmogrification works).

Your favourite slothful healer, ça va sans dire, is not fazed by this particular bit of  news as looking for pretty gear would mean actually spending time outside of raids. Also, I am not really interested in gear for its looks unless there’s a set somewhere that makes you look like this.

However, I can agree that it does add a nice touch of customization to the game, and it’s something players been interested in for a while. After transmogrification was announced, more polishing  features were revealed over the days – void storage, the ‘all new’ Darkmoon Faire, Worgen ponies, new tiers and Blizz admitting Blood tanking is gimped and will be fixed soon. I choose the word ‘polish’ intentionally as patch 4.3 seems to follow a pattern started roughly with dual speccing and walked by Cataclysm, as quality-of-life improvements take precedence over radical changes to the game.

Quality-of-life is a notion Blizzard themselves recently mentioned in the class feedback threads; as I see it, it’s the concept that the difficulty in WoW should be determined by the actual content and not by gameplay issues which might prevent you from enjoying the content in the first place – see warlock shards pre-cataclysm.

While some players complain that Cataclysm was a disappointment because of the lack of actual changes to the game, I agree with Blizz and others that there isn’t really a way to bring substantial upgrades to a seven-years-old game, and at this point it makes more sense to make sure that what we have is as smooth and enjoyable as possible; think of the revamp of 1-60 zones or the Void Storage feature if you want a couple of examples.

However, something Blizzard are expected to improve and innovate are raid encounters. As much as the Gunship Battle in ICC was basically tank and spank with some twists and free loot, I liked the fact that it managed to advance the story in a way few boss encounters did before (fighting the horde while trying to reach the upper Citadel). For that reason I am really looking forward to the Deathwing encounter, which seems to involve many different mechanics wrapped into an epic showdown. If the fight ends up half as fun as it sounds on paper, my guildies will see a very keen tree on the day we finally face the aspect of Death – as long as there is no swimming out of lava involved.

Domo, Majordomo-sama.

In other strictly related news, we killed Staghelm last week. We just did it again, and it looks like it could become farm content faster than Aly (which still isn’t for us), even without the nerf. I love this fight, not strictly because of the mechanics, although it’s reasonably well designed and fun; what I like is that I have to make the most out  if every spell in my arsenal – bar Nourish, sadly – if I want my team to have a chance to succeed, and that’s especially true in 10 man because you are responsible for pretty much every health bar in your range. From healing the tank hard to managing your raid cooldowns to keeping an eye on damage taken by orbs ‘tanks’, it always keeps people on their toes and prevents me from being stuck on the ‘keep hots rolling on the raid’ mentality.

Speaking of which, I did not actually take the time to answer Blizz’s questions, but I enjoyed reading the feedback from other players and seeing so many diverse opinions. I will admit I really like resto healing at the moment. I don’t have any bias, having started my healing career in the midst of tier 11, and at the same time I don’t have the experience either, so that I can’t compare resto as it is now to what it was in, say, ICC.

It does feel great, though, for the reasons I listed earlier taking about the Staghelm fight. The fact that we lack the ability to quickly top off a health bar or the ability to reduce incoming damage makes healing more challenging and fun.  As other bloggers have pointed out, we should not ask for abilities that do not belong in our spec or that are trademarks of other healing classes. The mark of a good healer is the ability to work with and make the most of other healers’ strong points and cover for their weaknesses. If you learn to do it for your fellow healers, they’ll do the same for you.

That is expecially true for us resto because our healing style complements others so well.

Anyway, I love resto so much that I will probably get a second resto spec – shouldn’t be an issue seeing how many dailies I do – so that I can try those few changes I have wanted to make for a while. Namely, I want to see how much Living Seed is valuable in 10man; I know it’s a weak talent on paper but I want to see if it can make a difference anyway in those fights where tanks have to move around a lot and might end up out of healing range.

I’d probably drop Nature’s Bounty, despite it being so good for me, and see if I can bring the Regrowth spam outside of tree form a bit down, as my gear certailnly doesn’t allow me to use it liberally yet (and hopefully never will). I have certainly toned it down with progress bosses becoming farm content, but I am still wary of what reckless regrowth usage can do to my mana bar.

…Same old song and daaance~~~

Another week and Rayze manages to do it again – another wall of text without actual substance into it. That means I’m probably giving up on the thought of a second Four_dot_two post and you can look forward to a nice guide to the TellMeWhen add-on for my next column.

Toodles!

Interlude – Useful reference post

To my guildies who have supported this crazy idea of mine: thank you. You people are awesome. (How awesome? This awesome). Many thanks to Jasyla of Cannot Be Tamed and Lissanna of Restokin, whom I randomly e-mailed asking for advice; instead of trashing the missive like I might or might not have done instead, they took the time to look at my blog and offer some nice, helpful words. After reading their replies, I went over my previous post, found some bits I wasn’t happy with, made it neater, and hopefully learned a thing or two about blogging.

Before my next wall of text, I’d like to catch my breath, gather my thoughts and share some of the resources I feel were a sort of cornerstone for my Firelands deeds . Last time I mentioned Elitist Jerks as it were THE source to look at when you need an update on your class. Now, I don’t take everything EJ say for granted, but their guides are very often quite informative and exhaustive, that’s why I recommend checking them every time a new patch comes out. Surely that’s not the only place to look for guides on our favourite kind of tree, though. Another comprehensive guide I really like is Myrrar’s over at the MMO-Champion boards. While I am definitely not a fan of MMO Champ, that’s another guide I really dig with a bit of everything you need to know and some nice theorycrafting on crit and mastery.

Some of my favourite bloggers also took the time to put down pointers for us tree newblets all over the interwebs. Guides can be found at both Restokin and CannotBeTamed. These are particularly helpful as not only you will get tips on the usual stuff like what talents to choose, how to reforge etc. but they will offer a nice walkthrough of what is actually resto healing in Cataclysm.

Something I enjoy and I feel really helped me improve is looking at WoL logs after the raid is over (I should do it the day after instead of looking at graphs and numbers at midnight – it really takes a toll on my beauty sleep). Having access to and being able to analyse boss fights logs is very important as you can readily see what spells you are mostly using, how much damage you could have avoided, your Harmony uptime and a lot more. Jasyla of CannotBeTamed has an amazing guide on how to evaluate healers with WoL; Katarnas of Resto is Epic and Glow of Glow’s Branches also wrote about how to read your logs and learn from them.

I have seen around some nice guides to Power Auras, especially focussing on specific encounters. I use TellMeWhen instead – one of my upcoming posts will be specifically about that add-on – but I will list them anyway, as I feel they are valuable resources and you need either PA or TMW to manage your cooldowns and buffs/debuffs. If you like PA better, check these: Power Auras by Beruthiel of Falling Leaves and Wings, Power Auras by Garnaph@Restokin and Power Auras by Jasyla.

Lastly, many of the blogs I have listed above have resto-centric guides to Firelands encounters. Those are helpful for a couple of reasons: first, resto druid is the only healing spec without any kind of damage mitigation spells, thus you might need slight adjustments to healing strats commonly found on IcyVeins, Tankspot or similar. Second, seldom-used abilites you might not even have on your bars can be actually useful on specific bosses; you will need a resto POV if you want to know when to pop that kitty or bear form.

That’s it. There are other exceptional reads on the blogs/websites I listed if you want to know more – browse them at your leisure; also try to follow links to other healing blogs as there’s always something you don’t know or might not have thought about, and sometimes that useful bit of advice will be in the most obscure blog or website you’ve never heard of.

– – –

And now for something completely different or not so much… a list of 378 gear available through Valor points, Avengers of Hyjal reputation and Leatherworking recipes, sorted by itemization. Comments below.

Spirit/haste:

Spirit/crit:

Spirit/mastery:

Mastery/haste:

Mastery/crit:

Crit/haste:

  • Firescar Sash (waist, Avengers of Hyjal reputation – honored)

I haven’t listed trinkets, which of course need to be evaluated separately and that’s something beyond the point of this list. I didn’t list Flickering Shoulderpads either, as it’s randomly itemized and as such it really doesn’t belong there.

I did include the Boomkin tier shoulderpiece because it’s itemized for pure healing output – crit and mastery – thus making it appealing when you don’t really need that extra haste or spirit anymore… which brings us right to the next point.

In my previous post, I stressed the fact that while there isn’t a lot of spirit/haste stuff available from vendors or through Leatherworking – not to mention 4.2 craftables aren’t exactly cheap to craft – there are quite a few of them available through Firelands boss drops. Thinking it over, is that a really good thing though? For people who are still worried about the 2005 haste threshold, it probably is. Except half of those spi/haste shinies drop from bosses quite far into Firelands, when you will be more interested in pure output stuff (crit/mastery). While I don’t really see a fail on Blizzard part’s as far as gear distribution and itemization go, I can see how people who are more inclined to min/maxing can be somehow annoyed by this. I know I am not, but once again I have yet to take a hard look at my gear, as I have been mostly busy trying to get raw stat upgrades so far.

Chapter I – This is not the blog you’re looking for (or is it?)

Welcome, Faceless and Nameless Reader of Average Skill and Progress! (from now on ‘FNRoASaP’)

This happens to be my blog, my latest creation where I maunder about my life as a restoration druid in a casual raiding guild. Now, before you roll your eyes at the word ‘casual’, I purposedly chose that word to underline the droll nature of this blog (see the not-so-tiny text on top of the page). If you want to start an argument about the superiority of ‘Casuals’ vs. ‘Hardcores’, I can direct you to the General forum of the MMO-Champion boards, but we all know how arguments are on the Internet… It’s a bit like participating in fox hunting: you will win eventually, unless you’re the fox, but that doesn’t make you less of a bloody fool.

Anyhow, enough babbling. What can you expect to find in here?

I am not sure either. I most certainly do not aspire to interwebs fame and I do this mainly for myself – so that by pondering my raid nights I force myself to constantly look at my talents, selection of spells, WOL logs etc. in order to perform slightly better every time and become a better healer for my guild. We spend a bit over seven hours a week raiding, so do no expect groundbreaking strategy articles on Firelands bosses – other bloggers will get there way faster with a lot of detail, making it pretty pointless for me to write lenghty posts about bosses many of you already attempted or read about.

Instead, I will focus on varioust aspects of raiding and try to give players different tools to improve their performance. To wrap up, I hope that my random posts will be not so random in the end and will give some tips to my tree friends out there. My first posts will probably focus on my Firelands experience so far, and how 4.2 affected my choices regarding talents, gear and spells usage. Until then, may you be able to keep your branches away from the fire.